Two-Story Former Girdle Factory


Location Bedford-Stuyvesant

Price $237,000 (1999) Square feet 10,000

Occupant Tim Giblin (architectural metal worker, furniture designer; owner, Demogod)

You were discussing the food chain. In ’94, I had 1600 square feet in a little white building in Prospect Heights and I was renting out a bedroom to a guy for 90 percent of what I was paying. My landlord was renting out five lofts to five artists, and we probably paid his rent. Now I rent out 3000 of my 10,000-square-foot building to a tenant who made his space two bedrooms and rents out one to someone who pays most of the $1500 he pays me. It goes down the chain. Very few people in Brooklyn lofts live legally.

Your building’s zoned residential? Yes, though it used to be a girdle factory, and, in the 1800s, a stable. Originally, I renovated this as if it were some illegal space—that’s all I knew—but after the fire department was throwing everybody out of lofts last year, I had a sprinkler test scheduled and realized I better get a C of O. Now I’m retro-filing everything after the fact. I’ve spent about $90,000 on demolition, construction, electricity, plumbing. This is not deep Bed-Stuy. It’s just over the line from Clinton Hill. I figured the area would flip in 10 years. This was ’99. They’re now calling the whole brownstone area around here Stuyvesant Heights. My block was mostly auto shops. Now there’s a Hasidic business on the corner, another Hasidic-owned building turning into apartments.

You slide around the neighborhood in a very long 1973 white Cadillac convertible with “Action Jack” embroidered on the maroon seats. It was a pimp’s car. I bought it from a gambler who bought it from the pimp. There were 100 condoms in the trunk.

What’s growling in the cage? A pit bull? Worse. I had this German shepherd. But when I moved, it was lawless here. The guy across the street had a really big rottweiler, no leash. The dog’d always come across the street to kill my German shepherd. One day it bit me. I was very upset, and I went across and said I’d sue the owner, but instead I got this really mean dog flown in from Vegas—Brazilian mastiff. I was born on the Upper East Side, but not a rich apartment. My mother is a research neurobiologist, father was a professor of neurology.

They must have had such a consciousness of nerve endings. Did they talk about it at dinner? I never understood what they were talking about. I moved out at 16, 1988, to the Lower East Side and got in a lot of trouble. I moved to San Francisco and got in a lot of trouble. My mother lured me to the New York Studio School, where I went for three years but then I went up to Vermont and worked for a guy who did timber frame homes—I was moving in the handyman direction—but then I got in trouble again and had to move back down to the city. I’ve never gotten into trouble in Brooklyn.

The scale and weight of all your giant metal machinery is so not human. I don’t think the stuff I have is that big. There’s bigger stuff out there. I make metalwork, fixtures for architects. I designed all the furniture in my apartment. For a month, my furniture was in this installation. I built a 250-square-foot house, rented four parking spaces on Houston for $7500, put the house on the lot.

Your bathtub is deep in the ground. The sink looks like a Tibetan altar. The stone is shale. It was taken out of the ground where my father was buried in Quebec. We had a house there when I was growing up. He died the month that I closed on this house. He knew I wanted to buy something. He said, Just find something and bring it to me. He and I split the down payment. There were three places I was looking at. I’m very ambitious. But there was one that even I thought was too big. After doing this place, I’m thinking about moving into a studio in Manhattan. You know how long it takes to mop this floor? One and a half hours.